After Christmas Eve dinner, Joseph “Papa Joe” Ortega, his wife of 53 years, and their children were playing a late-night game of Texas Hold ‘Em in their Covina home’s dining room.
Their grandchildren sat out in the outdoor pool and played computer games.
Michael Ortegas, the Ortegas’ 17-year-old grandson, sat at a computer on the second level.
There was a knock on the front door, followed by the joyful squeal of an 8-year-old girl, “Santa Claus! “It’s Santa Claus!”
A man dressed as Santa Claus shot the girl in the face seconds later, and two of her uncles were also injured. The Ortegas and three of their daughters, including the gunman’s ex-wife, took cover beneath the dining table. But it was pointless.
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo would k*ill the Ortegas, four of their children, two daughters-in-law, and the teenager at the computer.
The information comes from relatives in the United States and Mexico who have communicated with loved ones who survived the Christmas Eve rampage.
The survivors, who were among the 25 to 30 people who spent Christmas Eve with the Ortegas, have not spoken out publicly. However, law enforcement sources close to the investigation confirmed many of the relatives’ descriptions, providing the most detailed picture of what happened inside the house to date.
The relatives paint a terrifying picture of a gunman intent on carrying out executions and relatives struggling not only to escape but also to save their loved ones in the midst of the chaos.
According to sources, when Pardo arrived at the party, many of the adults were at the front of the house because people were starting to leave, making them especially vulnerable to the attack.
According to family members, Charles Ortega, one of the Ortega sons, recognized Pardo after the gunman shot his 8-year-old niece and his older brother, James.
At least one person reportedly exclaimed, “It’s Bruce!” After his brother James was shot, Charles Ortega was shot.
Irma Chapa Ortega, the adult Ortega children’s first cousin who lives in Torreon, Mexico, said James and Charles Ortega struggled to get up after being injured.
“Even bloodied, they got up, they stood up,” she continued. “They attempted to grab him and stop him. They couldn’t, however.”
The elder Ortegas, Joseph, 80, and Alicia, 70, and their three daughters, as well as at least one daughter-in-law, Teresa, slipped under the dining room table, according to Chapa Ortega. She stated that she has communicated with some of the survivors.
“Run! Run!” screamed someone. The Ortegas, along with two of their daughters, Sylvia and Alicia, may have been k*illed in the dining room.
Leticia, the mother of the injured 8-year-old girl, who had briefly hidden under the table, was the only one of their children to survive.
“I heard shots,” Leticia told the police dispatcher over the phone. “Everyone started panicking and running, and we all dove under the dining room” the table.
Chapa Ortega stated that her cousin Leticia fled after seeing her injured daughter stagger out of the house. According to a source close to the investigation, while Pardo shot her in the face, the child may have saved herself by turning her head at the last second.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing, the bullet struck her along the side of her jaw. According to relatives and the source, Pardo may have lifted the girl before shooting her.
“I need someone to come over and help my daughter!” Leticia yelled angrily at the dispatcher. “She’s… she’s bleeding.” She was hit in the side of the face!”
Some of the adults grabbed and carried children out. According to investigators, nearly all of the younger people were saved because they were in the back of the house, closer to the television, possibly playing video games, when Pardo opened fire.
Although the 8-year-old was injured, as was a 16-year-old girl who was shot in the back, Michael Ortiz, the 17-year-old who was sitting at the computer on the second floor, was the only minor k*illed in the attack. According to Chapa Ortega, Michael was k*illed by an explosion or fire caused by two tanks that Pardo had fused together to create a device capable of quickly engulfing the home in flames.
According to a law enforcement source, Michael appears to have died as a result of the fire or explosion rather than being shot.
Alicia Ortiz, Michael Ortiz’s mother and the daughter of Joseph and Alicia Ortega, was also ki*lled.
Pardo, whose mur*derous rampage was apparently triggered by his divorce from Sylvia Ortegas, had planned to flee and had purchased a plane ticket to Illinois. However, he was severely burned in the explosion and subsequent fire, suffering second- and third-degree burns on his arms.
He drove 40 miles to his brother’s house in Sylmar and committed suicide there. Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said there was an exit wound at the top of Pardo’s head, implying he put the gun in his mouth before pulling the trigger. A toxicology test could take up to six weeks to determine whether Pardo had any drugs or alcohol in his system.
“He intended to mu*rder everyone.” “Even his own mother,” Chapa Ortega raged on Tuesday. “It’s a monster, a monster.” That man was a demon. He assassinated good, hardworking people with many friends who loved the United States.”
Chapa Ortega stated that her 84-year-old mother, who has been hospitalized in Mexico, is unaware of the deaths.
“My uncle [Joseph Ortega] adored his sister, my mother. “Whenever he left us after a visit, he kissed her and said, ‘Take very good care of my sister,'” Chapa Ortega recalled. “She has no idea. The doctors are refusing to let us tell her. The doctors say she has no way of knowing. She’ll die if she finds out.”